David Ortiz has officially arrived at Red Sox Spring Training, and in typical Big Papi fashion, he’s been no stranger to the media. Ortiz spoke at length yesterday, sharing insight into every Yankee fan’s favorite collapse, his offseason, and his new contract with the Red Sox. Ortiz is now the elder statesman with the Red Sox, with Tim Wakefield retiring and Jason Varitek out of camp.
While Ortiz may be 36 years old, his production last year won him a Silver Slugger at the DH position; .309 AVG, 29 HR, and 96 RBI. For the $14.575 million that the Red Sox will pay him this year, that’s an absolute bargain. While Ortiz was really looking for a multi-year deal, he also lucked out to some extent – as opposed to the 2-year $18 million deal the Red Sox offered him, he’s getting paid only $3.5 million less for a single season worth of work. But while his offensive production will be crucial to the team’s success, his leadership ability is more important than ever before. Ortiz has always had a leadership style of his own, as evidence by his comments yesterday, “There’s a difference between being a leader and a babysitter,” Ortiz said. The man seems to know his role.
Perhaps more importantly, it seems as though the player-leaders on the Red Sox are on the same page. With regards to his relationship with Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, Ortiz said, “In the offseason I talked to Pedey almost every day, because at one point, I kind of missed him.” I certainly have no doubt about the commitment of these guys to this team, and their focus on leveling the clubhouse ship this season. I for one am predicting the best season of Dustin Pedroia’s career.
Despite Ortiz’s famed post-season heroics, his personality is always what has made him such a unique player in the league – few players in the game as beloved as Ortiz. Luckily, the feeling is mutual. ”What motivates me to play the game, to do my thing out there, is when you walk out there and have all those people cheering for you. That has no price, to be honest with you. When I’m walking to the plate at Fenway and I hear all these fans, it puts me in the mood,” said Ortiz.
I for one am thrilled to have him back.